Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Feb 25

Waste to Energy Continues to Gain Steam

Posted in Biofuels | Energy Industry | Waste to Energy

Waste to Energy While new energy solutions are being discovered, refined and brought further and further into the public light, something that does not get a lot of headlines is waste to energy. How something like this continues to not be used in the United States is incredible as countries like Japan have been using it for quite some time and dramatically improving their waste disposal problems in highly populated areas.

A faction of American Foods Group is looking to change this as they are undertaking a multi-million dollar project that will make use of waste in several different ways and hopefully give waste to energy some positive growth in the energy sector. From start to finish, they will be able to feed their new machine with about 100 tons of waste that will take about three weeks to run though the process to create a variety of products.

Waste is and always has been a significant problem for the food industry, especially for companies such as American Foods. The sheer volume of waste that can be created in the processing of meats and other food is rather staggering and unfortunately for the business, very expensive.

When possible, much of this waste is used in land applications. This is far and away the cheapest route to go, but there is just too much waste to be able to do this with everything. The new biodigester will turn waste into other usable products such as methane gas, heat, electricity and of course, some of the same applications that it is being used in currently.

This may seem obscure or “dirty” to some people, but the reality of it is that this will actually clean up the environment. Anyone that has ever been around these types of plants is more than aware of the fly population and the horrible odors that are associated with this. Much of that will be eliminated by using this process. Of course, there is also the added benefit of not actually having to find a home for all of this waste.

It has take the United States quite some time to get on board with waste to energy, but there are now several projects that are in the works and a couple of them are going to come to fruition in the very near future. If these early waste to energy plants have success, large cities will more than likely be investing more funding to a real solution to the waste disposal problems that many of them face.

  • Jos Conil

    The Bio mass – both waste and other sources – is a veritable treasury of natural energy. Developed nations like the US needs to take a fresh look at this source.

    Waste to energy projects are an excellent way to tap this vast energy resource, besides doing a great service in terms of the clean up.

    Even developing nations like India are promoting waste to energy projects in a great way. Read these stories – and .

  • Thomas Finger

    The article asks the question in the first paragraph “why has U.S been so slow to use this — I would like to have answers — Is it our short term thinking politicians that block funding for this? Why do other countries consistently lead the way in “alternatives” — Seems to me that every windmill our utility buys is from Germany — what happened to American ingenuity?

  • Boneheaded1

    I’m glad the company is doing this. More companies and municipalities should make use of their waste. It is a vast untapped resource. It all boils down to economics. Unfortunately America is not a “think ahead” nation so the changes only occur when it’s past due. They all forget the fact that the longer you wait the more expensive the solution will ultimately be. Things like TVs, DVD players, etc get cheaper over time as the technology matures but projects like this digester and other infrastructure/construction projects only get more expensive over time. Good they are building it but this is not new or improved technology and could have been done years ago, cheaper too. Sadly, no one ever learns the lesson: Those who anticipate rather than react are the successful ones.

  • D.W.

    In the U.S.A., manufacturers of plastics are allowed to use chlorine as an ingredient of plastics (PVC => poly-vinyl-chloride, for instance). Plastics containing chlorine compounds when burned result in dioxins in the gaseous emissions of waste-to-energy facilities. Dioxin is an extremely toxic chemical compound. Municipal waste to energy was thriving in the 1970’s in the U.S. in such cities as Columbus, OH; Nashville, TN; etc., etc. The inability to eliminate dioxins from the gaseous emissions of these facilities (and possibly other contributing factors) led to shut down of most if not all waste to energy plants after a relatively short lifetime of operation.

    Because of the environmental hazards, decades ago European regulators banned chlorine as an ingredient of plastics. Therefore waste to energy plants are relatively common in Europe. Failure to ban chlorine in plastics in the U.S. prohibits burning of plastics here, since it is practically impossible to remove chlorine-containing plastics from waste (garbage).

    There may be instances where a waste to energy plant could be 100% sure the waste it burns does not contain substances which would result in emission of dioxins or other such toxic compounds, but this normally is not possible for municipal waste or many industrial wastes.

  • Leonid Sp

    Dear Editor Alternative Energy,

    I agree with, your articles associated with the waste to energy, that although this seems dirty job, but the reality of it is that this will actually “clean up the environment”.
    In my country, Indonesia, exactly in Jakarta, the garbage problem long enough to be one of the obstacles faced by the Governor of Jakarta, and seems to have led to a program of “waste to energy”. But that is still an issue, many residents around the landfill area is not yet fully understand the benefits of this program. Perhaps because of lack of socialization, so most of them protesting, rather than approve it.

    Maybe a little different to the conditions in your country, the United States, waste disposal areas in Jakarta and surrounding areas, mostly located in areas close to settlements. And they are protesting because the emergence of odor that disturb residential environment and health.

    Do you have a solution in dealing with conditions like this in Jakarta?

    Maybe you will ask, why not build a landfill as far as possible from the settlement? After all, there is no problem for the electricity transmission network later? That’s it, because the place or location is hard to find for such densely populated areas in Java, usually near major cities.

    The next question is, for such conditions (populated areas), type (landfill) waste to energy such as what is appropriate, and about what kind of designs? And how its maximum capacity?
    Thank you for your input and opinions. My wait for your answer as soon as possible.

    Regards, Leonid Sp.

    Note: I’ve subscribed to this site about a few months ago. And routinely get the latest news on energy and the environment from you. Thank you.

  • j. Chandler Hall

    Great article. There’s a company here in my home town that has combined the previous technologies used in Japan in a slightly different way to eliminate all incineration, toxics and ‘leakables’, called Plasma Waste Recycling. They use a Plasma Arc to gasify waste into Synthetic Gas, reusable metals and building material.

    Like you point out in the story, it is a great answer to many of the issues we face: CO2 reduction, elimination of landfills and reduction of Oil/Gas/Coal use for the electrical power grid. (PWR process produces more energy than the process uses to do the conversion.)

    Thank goodness the City of Montgomery, AL is going forward with a feasibility study… and if validated… a full scale plant over the next few years.

    Thanks for putting visibility on this important option.
    (For more information, you can visit their site: )

  • slick

    I love the idea of reducing pollution and getting free power. I remember, however, when LA was going to use a trash incinerator to make electricity, people went crazy to stop it, even though it was going to be clean burning. I hope these projects continue to gain ground and acceptability.

  • j. Chandler Hall

    Well, as I mentioned, this Plasma process doesn’t incinerate. It uses a 100% oxygen free method and gasifies, not burns, the trash. This intense heat gasification process converts, or breaks down, the trash into it’s most base elements, creating a synthetic gas which has a more efficient burn % than even natural gas. The other 3% breakdown is in metals (sold to steel mills, etc) and a building material for roads which can also be ‘spun’ into insulation, etc.

    The Plasma TORCH systems from Japan did incinerate. This is a Plasma ARC system, more similar to the welding process in a steel mill. Tried and true technologies, just blended in a unique and better way. 🙂

  • Peter M

    Leonid Sp in post #5 was wanting data on how to set a waste to energy project in Jakarta, Indonesia. If you contact me by email pmason ‘at’ (replace ‘at’ with @) I will send you information on how it can be accomplished.

    J. Chandler Hall in post #6 wrote about plasma systems. One significant detriment to a plasma system is the relatively high capital costs and also high parasitic energy loads the systems requires. They are good for destroying toxins and heavy metals, but not a economic solution for processing MSW into energy. There are a number of effective technologies available that would be about quarter of the plasma system costs.

  • j. Chandler Hall

    Peter M.,

    Have you even read the white paper or FAQ on the website? I’ll be glad to find out the right person at PWR to address your details, but here’s what I understand from previously grilling them myself (due to other smart, experienced people like yourself mentioning these facts on other blogs and comments):

    Their process, which is a unique and patent pending method, only uses 35% of the amount of power GENERATED by the process. In other words, there is NOT a high parasitic energy load for this method. You must be thinking of the decades old Plasma Torch methods, but this is far superior to those.

    YES, it does take a significant capital investment. So does buying up golf courses and converting them into local landfills in communities. Or shipping trash on rail from NY to AL. Not to mention the toxic leaks, as NO LINER has EVER been proven by the EPA to prevent leaks into water tables decades later. None.

    So, how to solve the capital investment? City of Montgomery is merely paying for lawyers to review contracts and then will contract their trash to PWR’s plant, rather than PAY to have it landfilled. And the metals and building material slag can also be sold to produce additional revenue.

    PWR is creating an investment company to build the plant, with the contract from the City, it will be a guaranteed revenue stream and a Win Win for all parties.

  • Twisted Ideas

    I am all in favor of burning stuff to create energy. Call it biomass, waste to energy or natural gas. Who cares. Put a big filter on the smokestack and stoke the fire.

  • SC

    As a wastewater treatment operator, I think many of you missed the point of the article. What they are talking about here is anaerobic digestion, which produces sludge, methane & carbon dioxide. It is a process that has been used all over the US for a long time. It is however a process that must be monitored closely as specific conditions in the digestion chamber must be maintained in order to harvest methane gas. Proteins, fats and oils pose special problems in anaerobic & aerobic digestion. I would be interested to see how they will deal with these factions of the waste stream.

  • http://www.AstuteMarketing.Net j. Chandler Hall

    Hi SC,
    I wanted to make sure I had this right, so contacted one of the experts at (PWR). Here’s what he sent me in response to your comment:

    The plasma gasifier as applied to biosolids, or sewage sludge, is not a biological process. It is a high temperature electrical process that is an improvement over anaerobic digestion because it converts all of the material in biosolids to marketable products and leaves no residue to be disposed. Also, the process accepts all constituents in the biosolids without regard to percentage composition of fats, proteins, oils, etc. The organic content of the biosolids yields a synthesis gas (CO & H2) which can be used to generate electricity or can be used as a feedstock to make liquid fuels. The inorganic materials in the biosolids form a slag layer which is removed in molten form to be sold as building products or converted to rock wool insulation.

    My layman’s understanding of his response boils down to: “no sorting; none of the mix/shredding/makeup issues of past ‘similar processes’. This new method of Plasma Gasification eliminates the issues of previous generations, such as anaerobic digestion… at least that’s what I take away from the more in-depth technical explanation. Do you now agree?
    Best regards!

  • zaim džabiri

    I think that we should concentrate more on natural sources of energy, personally I am determined and I’m interested in gasification waste because the waste is a today biggest problem in the world as polluting air, land and water.
    I have option to get concessions from some Balkan countries only need a partner in these investments

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